MILAN — The Italian fashion sector is increasingly vocal about the need for support from the country’s institutions, as it faces an unprecedented crisis.
While Italy’s Camera della Moda has presented the government with a plan to restart the country’s fashion system with investments of 3 billion euros, Sistema Moda Italia, the association that represents fashion, textile and accessories companies, is also bringing attention to the issues challenging the sector, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the wake of such an unprecedented crisis our goal was to carefully analyze the context and provide the institutions with a plan that is feasible and reasonable, without making resounding claims,” said Marino Vago, president of SMI during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
According to data from the National Institute for Statistics ISTAT, 8 percent of Italian exports from the manufacturing industry are from the fashion industry, which employs 400,000 workers and comprises around 45,000 companies, 14 percent of the Italy’s overall manufacturing base.
University professor Massimiliano Serati from the Carlo Cattaneo LIUC business school, who led the research conducted for SMI assessing the impact of the pandemic on the sector and developed the aid plan submitted to the government, said, “The healthy condition of the fashion supply chain is directly interconnected with the wellness of the country.” The association shared its requests with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, among other institutions.
The research and plan were devised to start an “open conversation with policymakers about the Italian fashion supply chain, which is among the most crucial ones within the country’s manufacturing system,” he added. The professor cited the international vocation, ability to provide bespoke products, and collaborative mind-set as distinctive qualities fashion suppliers can provide.
Aiming to spotlight the mid- to long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the sector if no action is taken to mitigate them, the research evaluated main key performance indicators including revenues, exports and employment, showing that if no investment is made, sales would drop 15.9 percent in 2023 compared to 2019 levels, while exports and employment are expected to see a contraction of 9.4 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively. This would mean losing around 68,200 jobs.
“The plan is designed to amend the inertial evolution of the sector via industrial policies to support its rebound,” Serati noted.
The plan is organized over five years in three phases. The association is asking to channel 2 billion euros for emergency support measures that would entail extending the so-called “Cassa COVID” extraordinary wage support measure with no costs for the companies, helping enterprises to implement restructuring plans and manage job redundancies plus nonrepayable financial support for those businesses most severely impacted in the April to December period last year.
The second phase would require a blockbuster investment of 4 billion euros to guarantee a speed recovery in the span of 36 months. Actions to be taken in this phase are centered on five pillars, some of them — including sustainability and the circular economy — are in sync with mandates from the European Union requested to access the country’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund totaling more than 200 billion euros. Other initiatives include supporting the technological and creative innovation of the country’s fashion companies, stimulus for employment in the sector via re-shoring projects and a reduction in the fiscal pressure linked to energy consumption.
The research projected the impact of phase two on the Italian fashion industry’s recovery, showing that all main KPIs would see a rebound, generating “a positive long wave,” as Serati put it. Sales, for example, would grow from 8.8 billion euros in 2019 to more than 11 billion euros in 2023, while the number of positions will inch up by 167 jobs.
Requiring an investment of an additional 2 billion euros, the third phase to be rolled out across five years is focused on investments on training and education of new and existing employees in the sector, as well as a communication plan to promote Made in Italy abroad.
“In spite of all the struggles we have faced over the past 20 years, we’re still committed to the future of the sector,” said Vago, capping off the meeting. “With these policies we will manage to safeguard the supply chain and its know-how, the only one in Europe which has remained intact,” he noted.
“The earlier we’ll get a feedback, the better,” he concluded.